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Covering up your car to protect it from rain, snow, ice, and bird droppings is a natural thing to do, but should you reach for the tarp you have in the garage, or invest in a custom car cover? Car cover vs tarp – that’s the question we set out to answer.
A tarp will effectively keep rain, snow, and hail from damaging your car, and is a relatively cheap option. However, it will not be shaped to properly cover your car, and the material from which it’s made could well scratch your paintwork. A custom car cover will be molded to your car’s shape, and good-quality ones will have a soft inner surface that will not scratch the paint. If you can afford it, go for the car cover.
What are the pros and cons of a car cover, compared to tarps, for covering your car? Here are 12 things that will convince you to push the boat out and invest in a good quality car cover:
Car Cover Vs Tarp
1. Car Covers Are Shaped To Your Car
Even the most basic car cover is made in such a way as to wrap around the curves of a car, thereby making it less likely to be blown off, and flap against the car’s paintwork. If used indoors, a custom-made indoor car cover will keep out dust and dirt.
Ready-fit car covers, or custom fit as they are known, or at least those designed for the make and model of your car, are even better, as they take account of specific features of your car, such as the mirrors, or a radio aerial.
Overall, they make it easy to get a cover on and off the car.
Tarps, on the other hand, are simply a rectangular, or square, piece of plastic, which has no shape and are not custom fit. The tarp will need to be draped over the car or truck and secured tightly with ropes or elastic, and there will inevitably be gaps where wind, rain, and dirt could enter.
2. Car Covers Breathe
Good quality covers are made from a breathable fabric, so they let moisture out, thereby preventing rust formation, and avoiding the growth of mildew and mold, something waterproof or even water repellent covers may encourage.
So, make sure it’s a breathable cover when you check out its features.
Tarps, however, are made from various grades of plastic, which whilst in a category of waterproof covers, is usually not breathable, and will therefore trap moisture against the vehicle.
However, breathable canvas tarp fabric is available, and if you decide to go for a tarp, choose a cotton canvas or polyester canvas for their breathable qualities.
However, bear in mind they generally have a lower tear strength and have a lower resistance to UV light, resulting in a cover that may well have to be replaced in a year or two.
For more strength, breathability, and UV protection, go for an 18 oz vinyl coated polyester fabric tarp as an effective waterproof car cover.
3. Quality Car Covers Have a Soft Inner Layer
Better quality covers are made with an extra layer of soft fleece material, such as cotton fleece, on the side next to the car. Any movement in the car cover, as a result of wind, will be less likely to scratch the paint job.
Also, you’re less likely to get paint damage when you put the car cover on, and take it off.
Tarps may well scratch the paintwork as they’re often made of rough-grade plastic.
In considering a car cover vs tarp, if you decide to go for a tarp, ensure it’s of the best quality.
4. Car Covers Are Supplied With Adjustable Straps
Usually, an affordable car cover will come with elasticated straps which make it easy to secure them to the car.
You will need to buy rope or elastic to secure a tarp properly.
Often the higher quality car covers are supplied with a lock, to secure the cover in place. This will also have the advantage of detering any curious thieves from stealing your car (car break-ins statistics indicate a rise of 11.8% in vehicle theft in the US between 2019 and 2020.
5. Car Covers Are Often Supplied With a Bag for Storage
Once you remove the car cover, you could store it in its own bag. A tarp will need to be folded and stored somewhere – wet or dry.
6. Car covers are quicker to put on and take off
As car covers are often shaped to the car, they are relatively easy to slip on and off the vehicle, even when it’s windy and rainy. With their built-in elasticated straps, car covers are readily secured.
Tarps, on the other hand, will need to be careful handling in windy conditions and will require straps or elasticated rope to secure them adequately. While you’re wrestling to get the tarp over your car, you’ll have to be mindful to avoid scratching the paintwork.
7. Car covers look better than tarps
Let’s face it, tarps don’t look good, whereas well-fitted custom covers can maintain the sleek shape of your car.
However, you may well want to disguise the appearance of your valuable classic with a poorly fitting tarp to ward off any interest from car thieves.
8. Car covers are treated to withstand UV rays, as well as give UV protection to your car
A good quality car cover with UV protection will last longer than a cheap tarp, as it will be treated to resist the sun’s ultraviolet rays, as well as give UV protection to your car.
9. Car covers are designed not to stain the car’s paint
If you use a cotton canvas tarp, there may be a danger of staining occurring on the car’s paint, as the color is leached out of the tarp.
10. Car covers often come with fluorescent stripes
Having your car stand out on a dull winter’s day with fluorescent stripes, particularly if it’s parked on the roadside, can help to keep it safe. Choose a car cover with this feature to get the best protection.
11. Car covers are often machine washable
When your car cover’s been used for a season or two it may have accumulated a lot of dirt over time, so you may be able to stick it in the washing machine to clean all the dirt and droppings off. This may be difficult, if not impossible, with a tarp.
12. Tarps may leave an odor in the car
Cotton canvas tarps are prone to leave odors that may be difficult to dispel. On the other hand, polyester-cotton tarps leave no odor, and most car covers are odorless.
Car Cover Vs Tarp – Conclusion
So, if it’s a decision between car cover vs tarp, if you have the money, it’s best to go for a good quality, custom fit, outdoor car cover, to give adequate protection from all weather conditions.
But why not go for both a quality car cover and a tarp? The car cover protects your car’s paintwork, and fitting a tarp to the outside will lengthen the life of your car cover. Here’s one enthusiast for this method:
However, if you want to give your car an even better level of protection, go for a temporary car shelter, or even a carport.